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Incumbents sweep races in Sturgis municipal election

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Sturgis City Hall and Public Library

Sturgis Public Library City Hall building

Incumbents for seats on the Sturgis City Council and the mayoral race were victorious late Tuesday, following a near-record municipal election turnout.

The City Finance Office began counting ballots after the polls closed at 7 p.m. While a higher than normal voter turnout was expected, the unofficial results were released on the city of Sturgis Facebook page nearly four hours later as midnight quickly approached. A news release with the election results was sent just before 7 a.m. Wednesday.

Incumbent Mayor Mark Carstensen received more than double the amount of votes over challenger Tammy Bohn. The unofficial result shows Carstensen received 1,017 votes and Bohn received 470.

In the Ward 1 City Council race, incumbent Mike Bachand received 151 votes and challenger Brenda Vasknetz gained 97. Incumbent Kevin Forrester will retain his Ward 4 City Council seat, holding off a challenge by Justin Bohn by a vote of 340-133.

There were open seats in both Ward 2 and Ward 3, as Ward 2 incumbent David Martinson and Ward 3 incumbent Jason Anderson decided not to seek re-election. Tony Dargatz was unopposed for Ward 2 City Council, and there was a three-man race for the Ward 3 seat.

According to the unofficial results, Preston Williams won Ward 3 with 208 votes. David Murtha received 141 votes and Sean Natchke received 70.

Tuesday's election results will be certified once canvassing is complete. Those elected will be sworn in on May 2 for three-year terms.

The challenges by Tammy and Justin Bohn and Brenda Vasknetz were particularly contentious. The three candidates circulated a petition in December to hold an election to change Sturgis' form of municipal government from one with a city manager to one without.

The courts ruled the petition was invalid and then the candidates filed a lawsuit against the city and City Manager Daniel Ainslie on March 13.

The lawsuit is seeking judgment on two counts. The first count requests the court to determine the validity of a 2007 municipal election that established the Sturgis city manager petition. Attorney Kellen Willert, who is representing the Bohns and Vasknetz, alleges the 2007 election was improperly called using a different statute under South Dakota Codified Law.

The second count is seeking a declaratory judgment that if the 2007 election is found to be invalid, Ainslie should be required to repay his salary and benefits that he earned since he was hired in 2011. The plaintiffs did not seek declaratory judgment against former City Manager David Boone, who held the position prior to Ainslie.

On April 5, the city and Ainslie filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, questioning the court's jurisdiction in the matter. A hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled for 9 a.m. April 22.

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